During the 2009 fires, as the inferno approached the small town of Mount Beauty, the Incident Control Centre at Mount Beauty Fire Station needed to get crucial messages to the community.
The ICC rang Bruce Vine, a member of Tawonga Fire Brigade and a Board member of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria, at about 2am for help.
Bruce was asked to go to the local radio station to be a conduit between the ICC and the radio station to let people know what was happening. This was the first time Alpine Radio was used as an emergency broadcaster. Since then, it has become the emergency broadcaster for the Upper Kiewa and Upper Ovens valleys in north-east Victoria.
Alpine FM, as it’s now known, has been used many times to broadcast emergency messages at all times of the day and night, including warnings about flood, fire and landslides. COVID-19 information was also transmitted during the pandemic.
After that first broadcast by Bruce, Alpine FM invited him to participate in a regular program hosted by fellow Tawonga brigade member Ian Smith. They currently have a weekly chat session at 3.15pm on Mondays where they talk about a wide range of topics including fire prevention, regulations, fire investigations and what local brigades are doing.
“The show is really all about community safety,” Bruce said. “Our messaging depends on the time of year; it has a seasonal flavour.
“There’s always something happening at CFA and we make a point of telling listeners about the latest news – for example, when new fire trucks are being delivered.
“We talk about what the local brigades are doing and the variety of incidents they attend. Around here, we have hang‑glider accidents and cars falling off cliffs, so Mount Beauty brigade has specialist high-angle and motor vehicle accident capability.”
Bruce has been a fire investigator for about 20 years. He includes information from recent investigations on the radio because it’s an opportunity to pass on crucial safety information. However, the specific details of incidents remain confidential.
“We may talk about a house fire caused by a particular appliance such as an air conditioner. By discussing the incident, we can tell people about the risks and turn it into a safety message,” Bruce said.
Bruce has also used an incident involving a gas explosion to talk about gas safety, and in late autumn there was a grassfire in the area that needed five tankers.
“I mentioned the fire on air and warned people that grassfires can take hold even in colder weather.”
In October 2022, a landslip between Mount Beauty and Falls Creek became a serious concern to locals. Access to Falls Creek from Mount Beauty was cut from October 2022 to April 2023.
“On the program, we discussed the ability of emergency services to access Falls Creek. Locals wanted to know what was happening. Emergency access around the landslip was created by dozers.”
Bruce and Ian occasionally take calls from listeners who want more information about safety.
“We don’t do it on a regular basis, but we welcome listeners who phone in and ask us questions about CFA and our work.”
According to Bruce, the Tawonga and Mount Beauty areas have a “wonderful and supportive” community. “I can be standing in the queue at the supermarket and someone will tap me on the shoulder and ask if we can give more information about a topic on the radio.”
Bruce and Ian discussed the brigade’s awards night on the program, which took place in May. Bruce believes that sharing this type of information, which highlights the dedication of brigade members, reinforces with the community just how important CFA brigades are. It’s also an opportunity to spruik the brigade to get more members.
At the awards night, Bruce received his 50-year service medal and life membership. He also received an AFSM in 2012. Ian (who moved to Mount Beauty around the time of the 2003 fires) received his 20-year service medal. Ian joined Tawonga brigade after witnessing how well the brigade members protected their community.
Although the team doesn’t know exactly how many people tune into the program, they are sure of one thing: “If there’s a fire coming over the hill, I guarantee the whole town will be listening.”
Alpine FM broadcasts 24 hours a day on 96.5FM in the Kiewa Valley and 92.9FM in the Ovens Valley. It can also be streamed by visiting Alpine FM.
|News and Media